SC

SC House Proposes Major Ethics Upgrade

PLAN WOULD REMOVE CORRUPT “SELF-POLICING” MECHANISM Lurking in the background of the Palmetto political scandals that have swirled around S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley and (more recently) Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell has been a key structural deficiency related to the state’s system of accountability. We’re referring of course to…

PLAN WOULD REMOVE CORRUPT “SELF-POLICING” MECHANISM

Lurking in the background of the Palmetto political scandals that have swirled around S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley and (more recently) Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell has been a key structural deficiency related to the state’s system of accountability.

We’re referring of course to the “cover-up committees” in the S.C. House and State Senate that have enabled current legislators to sit in judgment over their colleagues (and former colleagues).

Rather than subject themselves to justice in the civil and criminal courts the rest of us must face, lawmakers have carved out for themselves what S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson has correctly referred to as effective “immunity” from prosecution on corruption charges.

In other words no matter how compelling the evidence against legislators may be, they’ve always been able to rely on their colleagues to get them off the hook … unless of course there’s a partisan ax to grind.

Anyway …

We’d like to offer up some credit this week to four S.C. Representatives who have been instrumental in proposing what we believe to be a viable alternative to the status quo.

Under a proposal crafted by S.C. Reps. Bruce Bannister, Greg Delleney, Kirkman Finlay and Weston Newton, the current House and Senate “Ethics” panels would be replaced by a single panel – one that includes precisely zero lawmakers.

This new ethics panel would be comprised of four legislative appointees (two from the House, two from the Senate), four gubernatorial appointees and four appointees from the judicial branch.

Sounds good? We certainly think so … but that’s not even the best part.

Not only would lawmakers be banned from sitting on the new panel, judges would also be prohibited from receiving appointments. The same would also go for political donors – a caveat included by Newton in an effort to avoid possible conflicts of interest.

Brilliant … keeping entrenched special interests out of the judgment seat(s) on this panel represents a master stroke, one which should help ensure a rise in both impartiality as well as real accountability.

Where is Haley on the latest proposal? Lawmakers tell FITS they’re not sure.

According to our sources, Delleney was abruptly asked to leave the governor’s office midway through his recent attempt to explain the proposal to Haley.

That’s too bad … Haley and the rest of the state’s political class should be all over this new idea. It’s not a panacea, to be sure, but it’s a rare solid step in the right direction.

That step should be taken: Unless Haley, Harrell and others prefer to continue eroding what little is left of the public trust in this state …

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30 comments

Fanstasy Island May 20, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Yes, just the right tweaks here and there will fix the dysfunctional government.

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Will Folks aka Sic May 21, 2014 at 7:53 am

True, true … and no one calls it out any better, more frequently (or more sarcastically) than this website. But this is a good step.

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Fantasy Island May 21, 2014 at 8:46 am

I agree, you do a great job.

The sooner though that people return to the Founders understanding of government, the better. Let us not pretend that any reforms “fix” government. It’s unfixable, and if it must exist it might be run under with that understanding in mind.

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Fred Friendly May 21, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Crooked politicians, their supporters and handlers and feeders (staff, consultants, ad companies, web hosting companies) cringe at the thought of seeing their names in Fits (or any other print news outlet). The founding fathers would be proud of Fits.

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jimlewisowb May 20, 2014 at 9:19 pm

The only way ethics reform will take place in this State is when the saw grass baskets are full of cockroach heads

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Please, not another commission May 20, 2014 at 10:17 pm

I see conniving, canvassing, cavorting and caressing by egomaniacs — like the fist-fighting we see among those hoping to get onto S.C. college boards of trustees — with this proposal.

What sort of candidates do you expect to get from the state’s largest whorehouses — the legislature and the (holding my nose) judiciary? Honest brokers?

I see politically-oriented opportunists.

I favor enhanced authority of the already-existing S.C. State Ethics Commission, legislation for which has been introduced several times over the past eight years.

There’s no need to re-invent the wheel with yet another state agency / commission. The Ethics Commission has a staff (including an attorney) in place, with deep and broad understanding of state laws and, with subpoena power, everything needed to clean up the legislature.

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Will Folks aka Sic May 21, 2014 at 7:59 am

Agreed it all needs to be under one roof. No doubt.

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Smirks May 21, 2014 at 8:13 am

We would be better off filling the panel with random people off the street. You might draw a bad apple or two this way, but the chances of getting people who would actually do what they are supposed to do would be exponentially higher.

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Bumpkin May 21, 2014 at 12:24 pm

The devil is in the detail of picking those people. Our jury system is random (I was in a jury two weeks ago). But although the people on the street with me in that jury room were honest and enthusiastic about being chosen, they had jobs, families (including school-age kids), transportation issues, doctor appointments, etc. And for my jury service, I was paid ten dollars. One lady said she’d been called to a federal jury involving 25 defendants in a major drug case expected to last six months, and she got out of it. I don’t know how much time would be involved investigating the countless crooked legislators in South Carolina, but suspect it’d be two full-time, not-so-fun jobs.

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Native Ink May 21, 2014 at 7:46 pm

Hmm, kinda like a grand jury…

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Tom May 21, 2014 at 7:06 pm

I don’t know. I like the new plan. Keeping anyone who has made a political contribution off the panel would make it very difficult to stack the panel with cronies. We would need to be sure that included a prohibition on people who work for corporations who made contributions.

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Native Ink May 21, 2014 at 7:45 pm

Yeah, but it would be easy to coordinate beforehand. I can picture someone like Harrell saying, “Jim Bob, I’m a Republican in S.C. so of course I have this election in the bag. Hold on to that campaign check so I can put you on my get-out-of-jail, err I mean, ethics panel. Hell, give me that check under the table and it’ll be all good. Ain’t like we got nothing to worry about.”

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euwe max May 20, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Another earth of foxes.

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We The People Cometh May 20, 2014 at 11:51 pm

Those dirt bags in the House can propose all the ethic reforms they will, yet still – left and right, they will willfully and knowingly break them – and numerous statutes of law codified in the SC Code of Laws. Real reform is abolishing all forms of self policing their own, and forming a board of citizens — citizens free of political connections of any form. Only then will there be any change from the normal corrupt and criminal behavior that these tyrants (like Harrell) engage within. Remember, it is “We The People of South Carolina” … not “We The Members of the House.” All of them, they have got to be cleaned out, and Bobby Harrell must be tried in the people’s court. If he is not hauled before a criminal court, Jean Toal will fall with him and Manning and the other Harrell cronies. The people of South Carolina are forming, organizing, and preparing to show these sicko power freaks who the real owners of our government are – The Citizens! And we will prevail! Our enemy in our government will be taken prisoner.

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CNSYD May 21, 2014 at 8:09 am

Put down the crack pipe.

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~~~~~~~~~ May 21, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Shut up, Anonymous.

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RHood2 May 21, 2014 at 12:25 am

WTG Greg Delleney.

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junior justice May 21, 2014 at 8:18 am

Several commentators have mentioned that a couple of their posts had been deleted or omitted, but I don’t think that is the case. Disqus gets “hinky” occasionally and I just discovered that one of my posts ended up on a different article. Anybody else notice this?

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Smirks May 21, 2014 at 8:48 am

When you press “post” it turns gray to let you know it is trying to post and turns black when it is actually posted. I’ve noticed that sometimes when I post, the comment text is grayed out and never turns black, and the post never shows up if I refresh. It most likely is an issue with the comment just getting “lost” somewhere in the process of going to whatever Disqus server, or some bug or something.

Disqus can be annoying (especially when posting from a phone) but it isn’t the worst comment system. At least FITS hasn’t adopted commenting through Facebook or something equally horrendous.

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GrandTango May 21, 2014 at 8:51 am

Seems the more inevitable a GOP landslide becomes, based on the demand for Rejection of Obama…the more “hinky” the Internet comment sections get.

What a coincidence. LMAO….

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junior justice May 21, 2014 at 9:18 am

GT, you may be right—

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junior justice May 21, 2014 at 9:17 am

1) – exactly my experiences
2) – I don’t do anything through Facebook

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Native Ink May 21, 2014 at 8:55 am

The College of Charleston board of trustees shows how “independent” these panels are. I seriously doubt any politician would appoint someone who is hawkish on government accountability.

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Lacon May 21, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Charles Darby, the sole trustee who openly opposed McConnell as college president, was removed from his position by an act of the legislature which acted in response to an order from McConnell. After that, McConnell was approved unanimously. Four other trustees were privately wavering, also opposed to McConnell, but got religion when they saw Darby get his head scalped.

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Halfvast Conspirator May 21, 2014 at 9:33 am

“This new ethics panel would be compromised of four legislative appointees”

You need to learn the difference between the words “comprise” and “compose” and, well, “compromised” too. But, yeah, I can see how it would be compromised by having legislative appointees.

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ELCID May 21, 2014 at 10:32 am

If they had any Ethics, then they would not need this type of BS.

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Pickens May 21, 2014 at 11:58 am

May 21, 2014: Harrell still opposed to ethics reform.

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john dozier May 22, 2014 at 10:46 am

Compose the panel just as you do juries. Random selection is the way to go. Then no one can call foul.

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TyroneMamaCollards May 23, 2014 at 11:06 am

How about appointing an ad hoc special prosecutor or Ethics Czar on a pro bono basis?

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john dozier May 26, 2014 at 11:00 pm

A meaningless “red herring”

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